Fitness trends: What’s in, what’s out

TRAVERSE CITY – Imagine the future of fitness being an activity practiced by exotic dancers for years: pole dancing or "stripper aerobics."

This is just one of the many unique forms of exercise that people all over America are turning to, according to Adam Schaub, who bought the Borgata, formerly Powerhouse Gym, from his parents in May.

Working for his parents for 15 years, Schaub has watched fitness trends come and go. And now he sees new ones emerging.

"The days of step aerobics are over," he said. "We're seeing more of a trend toward spinning, which has, of course, been around for a while, and cardio kick-boxing. Pretty soon we'll be adding what would be called 'stripper aerobics,' which is huge out west and in Chicago and New York."

Schaub said participants actually learn to "dance on a pole," like dancers in a strip-club, and that it's a very hard workout.

"Stripper aerobics" is not the only unique exercise to hit the circuit; belly-dancing is also catching on and was recently offered at Northern Michigan Pilates Studio in Elk Rapids.

"I think there is a common misconception that exercise has to be like work," said Faun Rubert, yoga instructor at NM Pilates Studio. "But more and more people are seeing that it can be fun."

In the past, people were all about the "go-go-burn-burn" attitude of aerobics, Rubert says, whereas now they are more interested in the overall wellness offered by activities like yoga and Pilates.

In fact, many of her clients are amazed at how much better they feel once they begin exercising, and have even claimed that ailments, like stomach problems and migraines, have disappeared.

Neely Neu, owner of recently-opened Sacred Space Yoga on Eighth Street, has been a yoga instructor for five years. In that time she says the public's interest in the 5,000-year-old discipline has remained steady.

"I really don't think that yoga is a fad, I don't think it is ever going to go out of style," she said. "I just think that it is such a good system of not only physical fitness, but breathing and body awareness."

Neu attributes yoga's successful transition into the mainstream during the last 10 years to the fact that it can be found in nearly every exercise facility. This accessibility has led to variations, such as ashtanga, a series of postures that remain constant, or vinyasa, a free-style series of postures that flows from one position to the next.

"I'd say the most popular class here right now is the yoga and Pilates combination class," she explained. "It offers the lengthening and stress relieving benefits of yoga, while maintaining the strengthening and core building aspects offered by Pilates."

The "core," she says, includes important muscles like the abdomen and back, where all movement in your body originates.

Pilates, which was invented by Joseph Pilates around 80 years ago, shares many similarities with yoga, and Neu feels that is why they work so well when combined.

Doug Petersen, former fitness director at The Fitness Center in Traverse City, feels the future of yoga and Pilates will continue to transform as more and more people have the opportunity to experiment with it.

"I think yoga will go more mainstream, and will have to for the average Joe to want to give it a shot," he said. "You will see it more in the workplace, and in settings that don't require a mat and specific attire-just come in your work clothing and do a half-hour for a stress relief type thing."

Petersen, who trains celebrities, is currently working with a well-known filmmaker in New York City, where he says much of the fitness world takes shape. He sees a trend toward exercise forms like Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese mind-body relaxation exercise.

Petersen-a certified trainer for more than 15 years-feels that as our nation's weight problem gets worse, the need for personal trainers is increasing.

"Personal training is not just for the rich anymore. Over a 10-year period the number of personal trainers has doubled in many gyms," he said. "Where there is a demand, it will be met. We are getting fatter as a society and consequently attendance in training certification courses has risen dramatically."

He says there's a new surge in personal training called "small group" training.

"Because there is still cost to consider (anywhere from $40 -$150 and hour) you're seeing a small group training surge," Petersen said. "Three to seven participants is the number I typically see here in New York. The group shares the costs and you get much more personal attention than in a general class arrangement."

Rex Holden, a physical therapist for more than 13 years, says people are looking for exercise to be more specific to them. At Functional Accelerated Sports Training (FAST Fitness), which he owns with wife, Jill, they do specific sports training and tailor programs to each sport, like baseball, soccer or skiing.

Their high-speed treadmills allow clients to work around physical issues, such as hip problems or joint inflexibility. To use the treadmill, the client puts on a harness that protects them if they fall and takes some of their body weight off so they can run faster.

"We run people forward, backward and sideways on the treadmills, which can go up to speeds of 31 miles per hour," Holden says. "It really prepares them for sports like soccer, basketball and hockey-anything where they are going forward, sideways and backwards at any point in the game."

Another new form of training is the vibration plate training, where athletes stand on a vibrating plate that stimulates more motor neurons, in turn contracting more muscle fibers. They then do training routines directly on that platform, Holden said. BN